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Home » Archives » April 2018 » Fire District & EMTs Mangement Will Form Committee To Explore Merger

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04/04/2018: "Fire District & EMTs Mangement Will Form Committee To Explore Merger"

ig_FH_Fire-EMT_combinded-1 (98k image)
(Joint meeting of merger of Fire/EMT -IG photo)

The ongoing and long discussion of combining Fire and the EMT departments on San Juan Island got a breath of fresh air Wednesday night when the SJCPHD (San Juan County Public Hospital District) Board and the SJIFD (San Juan Island Fired District) Commissioners discussed the pros and cons of a merger, and, agreed to move forward with a five member Citizen Advisory Group to study and report findings to the joint Board & Commissioners group.

The first order of business was the election of Fire Commissioner Bob Jarman as the groups chair, who set the tone for the meeting with a quote by Jack W. Snook from Making the Pieces Fit: “It is very appropriate and prudent for governing officials to investigate consolidation. It is, in fact, their responsibility to do due diligence in spending the taxpayer’s dollars.”

As meeting started off, it seemed two of the fire commissioners were skeptical of merging, but as the discussion moved forward through a list of prepared talking points, the two sides agreed to continue forward with exploring what the efficiencies and economics might be of a consolidation, not only of services but of administration.

A draft of 23 possible benefits of consolidation were presented as discussion points:

1. Maximize Effective Use of Scarce Resources - perhaps the scarcest resource are the volunteer and paid-on-call members. Both fire and EMS jointly respond to many of the same incidents, and both departments recruit from the same small pool of citizens. There is currently a small number of cross-trained firefighter/EMTs. Consolidation will increase the number of these cross-trained responders and thus will increase the number of qualified responders for either fire and/or EMS calls
2. Future Savings - a common misperception is that consolidations will initially save significant money. Some initial savings might occur but the greatest cost savings in consolidation is future cost avoidance.
3. Grant monies available across both fire and EMS
4. Eliminate Redundancy - fewer administrative staff personnel, and less duplication of equipment, apparatus, services, programs, and personnel.
5. A potential for future Fire Authority consolidation with other San Juan County Fire Departments
6. Potential to provide more cost-effective services
7. Standardization of services, programs, and training, resulting in cost savings, greater functionality, improved services, and employee safety
8. Balances citizen demands for increased services at reduced costs
9. Encourages program examination
10. Depth of service
11. Next logical step for two departments that already have functional consolidation in emergency responses
12. Expanded strategic planning becomes a necessity
13. Potential to improve service or unify service delivery
14. Better utilization of department resources
15. Decrease apparatus expenditures
16. Standardization of services
17. Allows for response of the closest unit regardless of department district lines
18. Allows opportunities to expand into specialized services
19. Allows for master planning
20. Legitimate desire to become more efficient by the departments’ leadership
21. Elimination of duplication of services
22. Less government is seen as advantageous by many individuals
23. Improved ability to absorb financial crisis

And, a list of 15 possible concerns of consolidation:

1. Loss of local autonomy - community had a strong sense of identity and valued their role and “control” of the department. “Our culture is different, and we have unique needs that only we can serve.”
2. Governing Officials who had a part in the building or membership of the department, and their pride of accomplishment and ownership, might result in feelings of being threatened and a need to protect the department status quo
3. Fear of loss of employment or duty
4. Resistance to change
5. Volunteer morale
6. Politics
7. Hidden agendas
8. Fire department leadership resistance and fear of status loss
9. Tradition
10. Different department philosophical beliefs
11. Differences in equipment, policies, standard operating guidelines, apparatus, and employee standards
12. Inequitable sharing of costs
13. Inequitable sharing of resources
14. Larger organizations are more difficult to create change
15. End product cost more without proper management

When the question of what to do next, and how best to do it, it was decided a Citizen Advisory Group, made up of five members, be created, who will:

Bring community perspectives to their district commissioners, enhance communication and increase interaction between boards and their local residents.
Overview of the Group’s responsibilities
• To meet frequently to gather, analyze, and discuss information concerning possible integration of San Juan Island Fire District 3, Town Fire and San Juan Island EMS
• To work with subject matter experts in drafting recommendations to the boards of FD3, PHD1, and the Town
Anticipated role of the Citizen Advisory Group
• To learn about FD3, Town fire and SJIEMS, thereby becoming knowledgeable representatives in our community
• To bring forward objective, balanced, and accurate community perspectives and concerns regarding possible integration of these organizations
• To work collaboratively with the FD3 and PHD1 boards and town representatives to research various aspects of their departments’ integration, including reasons for consolidation, governance, administration, command and control, costs, outer islands’ service, legal process, financial forecasting, billing, liabilities, tax rates, employee/volunteer training, and strategies for accomplishing tasks
• To consider and research specific topics at the request of FD3, Town, and PHD1 commissioners, thus providing substantial public input to decision-making
The members will be chosen from a pool of applicants: one by FD3, one by PHD1, one by the Town of Friday Harbor, and those three together will pick two more members

How one puts their name forward will be published in the near future. once the contact and membership requirements have been determined

John Evans
Greg Hertel
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Teresa Smith
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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